But, even though I've taken liberties with story locations, I still spend ages looking at maps. And even though I've taken small liberties, street names etc, I had to make a big story change at one point to further the story by better accommodating the truth of a location's physical geography.
When I first started writing (age 13-14), I decided to invent a fictional town for my stories. (I didn't know this had been done before and congratulated myself on my brilliance, of course.) I remember drawing a town map of my envisioned town. I'm sure it was lousy. I didn't use any kind of reference.
I do use a fictional town for my stories still, but it's really just my town renamed. I decided to use a fake town name because I don't live anywhere interesting enough to immortalize in fiction.
I had a very strong mental map of the places that I was writing about in my novel. It was set in a part of Cornwall that I know well, though I also dragged in locations from other counties where I dwelled for a while - this made me feel like Zeus!
When I first started describing places I gave them rather generic names, hoping that the story would feel like it could have taken place anywhere. But then I started to get lost, and realised too that I wasn't using one of the strengths of my tale - it's distinctive landscape. I took the liberty of altering place names, so Liskeard became Liskerrett, but this is the sort of thing that readers love to work out.
I was vaguely aware of future marketing opportunities and tourist trails that could spring up - just think what Doc Martin, Daphne du Maurier and Winston Graham's Poldark have done for Cornwall - estate agents love it!
I like maps in novels, though they tend to be for historic or fantasy worlds, don't they?
I'm going off topic slightly here, but another feature of books that I appreciate and which isn't seen so much these days, is a cast of characters in the front of a complicated story.
For those of you who have any interest in maps, can I draw your attention to this month's theme for Synaesthesia Magazine, which is "Atlas". If you have map-related stories or artwork, the deadline is the end of the month.
I'm working on it. Hopefully it'll be good for the mapping side of things if I can get some images out there.